India with its colourful life, diverse nature and rich culture has a lot to offer to the visitor. From the beaches in Kerala to the Himalayan mountains, from the temples in Madurai to Mumbai’s Bollywood, from yoga to tasty food, India is incredibly rich in experiences.
However, there seems to be an absence of thinking for society as a whole. On one hand the greatest strength is a flexibility that enables life to flow despite infrastructures completely overcharged by the sheer amount of people. On the other hand, everybody immediately pushes into any available space, often causing system slowdown for all. Ubiqituous garbage and widespread corruption are symptoms of the same malaise.
Quite related is the utmost importance of money. The ‘white tax’ for visitors is just a side effect. The have-nots do everything to get it, the rich want to demonstrate their superiority. Money is so important that intimidating or even killing of wives and brides for money or trafficking of women is a huge problem in some areas.
Related to that, the plainly visible sexism and chauvinism of many Indian men is just appalling, a fact that might not have sprung to my attention so intensely hadn’t I travelled with a female companion.
You can have a great time as a tourist in India, enjoy great food, full moon parties, the safety for travellers. However, should you care once to open a newspaper, you will probably be surprised by the other side of this society. It is this side that does not make me want to go back soon, except maybe for some regions like the Himalayas, where things seemed to be different, at least to me.
Two and a half fascinating months spent in India made me aware of the many intriguing aspects of Indian life, but also the striking cultural differences.
The careless behaviour of heavily polluting nature and the omnipresent greed for money are just some examples. Another one is the unhappy fate of being a woman in India. It was not easy to ignore being stared at and accept the fact that white women are regarded as free and easy.
In India you are never alone. Only money and power can buy you silence and space. The only exception we found was in the Himalaya mountains – from 2,500 meters altitude upwards.
However, also memories of mouth-watering flavours, colourful, loud festivals interwined with the sacred and accomodating Indian people we met on the way will stay with us. The moments shared in a smile or a short conversation made me sensitive to the fact how different our journey might have been had we only spoken at least some basic Hindi.
India is not a place that you can ‘see’, but one that involves all your senses, that forces you to transit from being an onlooker to being a participant, making the experience unforgettably intense.